How important are punters in informing the prostitution culture and ergo, the culture at large? Why are they so often silent in populist realms or debates? Bar of course, the occasional cycloptic fella with some ostensible measure of practised eccentricity – such as the guy who graced Rupert Everett’s flimsy shocku ‘Love for Sale’ – to tell of his shrugged belief that a prostitute shouldn’t enjoy the sex, if she is getting paid for it. Or George Mccoy, the man who tramps around brothels in search of freebies, in exchange for a section in his weather worn ‘guide books’. Lazy grey face, slicked with sleaze and topped off, like a rotten cherry, with a flat cap. These men are so beyond social expectations that they have nothing to lose by being openly vile. They may even imagine themselves to be mavericks. Everett certainly does.
But silent of course, does not mean inactive. Punters, or Johns, are the sex industry’s largest component, its most thriving eco-culture, and in this respect most appropriately to be likened to pond life. Their punters’ forums – spilling what would embarrass even the most prolific of back room bar banterers and locker room fabulists – are their breeding ground, where they learn how to be good at renting women.
You’ll notice, if you have the requisite stomach to trawl through their darkened corridors, dripping, as it seems to me, with the viscous goo of thousands of women forensically dissected, that they are seldom frequented by happy, sexy couples, or vibrant young women who enjoy renting vagina… just as much as the next middle aged, married, middle class man. Just another one of those fanciful Mills and Boon fantasies that keeps many a liberal ‘sex work supporter’ going until dinner.
Other than the odd woman, long entrenched in the prostitutional game and daily asking herself the questions, how low should I stoop? How many of these digital feet should I kiss to cream off enough business to stay afloat? Or: how long have I been so enmeshed in this wacky and unedifying imbroglio that I cannot see myself as anything other than in relation to it? I am what the punters want, I am what they don’t want… what else am I?
I can’t be a kind feminist and ignore these posturings so as to avoid infantilising or drawing attention to the rituals of humiliation that are required of prostitutes who use punter forums as a form of advertising, because it is an archetypal aspect of the industry. A salient example of what the punters want; slavish servitude. Often entailing ‘calling out’ other prostitutes for being ‘bad’ at service, and back patting the punters during their relentless and petulant tantrums, wailing that they didn’t get what they thought they deserved. The women that are not good enough for these man children are as equally enthusiastically torn to smither by their fellow ladies; “Look how on board I am fellas!”
Is it just for the money, or is it also the yucks? We are taught to see our value in terms of how men see us, and in relation to other women. Good old prostitution; providing a breeding ground for our most neurotic of gendered complaints.
Don’t be fooled by those who say at least prostitutes don’t barter with their minds, it is one of the reasons, I believe, they are often so convinced of the definite wrongness of the Nordic Model. Why, the dogmatic belief that to criminalise punters is to criminalise them. Punters, collectively, are their husbands, their patriarchs, their patrons. To them they owe not only an hours access to their internals, but their political and social loyalty.
But this commitment? It is not reciprocated.
Where is the punter movement? Why does it not speak its name? Why does it one not arise and task itself with the battle against the Nordic Model (now increasingly gaining European ground)? Punter forums are extremely popular. The two most utilized in the UK average collectively over a million and half views per month, on average. One would think even some small subsection of these febrile webrats would develop a political identity.
But no. Even when the Nordic Model has been suggested or implemented, punters have not rallied around each other and defended, even under internet Avatar, in any kind of collective, their right to rent women. In France there was small murmur from so called ‘male intellectuals’ who penned their names to the letter entitled Keep Your Hands Off Our Whores. But the rule was proven by the exception.
Of course, it wasn’t quite the message the ‘sex workers’ movement’ had in mind; Selma James, former agitator for the so-called English Collective of Prostitutes* wrote an op-ed for The Guardian, at once trying to criticise the Nordic Model itself, as well as this small, unusual display of punter will. She couldn’t quite fandango it. Writing, “The men, in the usual self-referential terms, defend their own rights as clients, not women’s rights as workers. Nevertheless it’s about time men admitted to being clients. But next time they should first check with the workers they are claiming to support, what they are proposing to say.” Silly Selma, thinking punters give a hoot about the velvet pockets of the poor women they seek to plough. Thinking they cloven cries represented the slightest concern for the so called ‘sex worker’ cause. As one punter notes, gracefully, on a popular forum,
“(The Nordic Model) is perverse. And interesting that it’s mainly women who promote this idea. More evidence that the female brain doesn’t have much logic about it. Nor do they have much idea about the opposite gender – no surprise there.If paid sex wasn’t available, then there wouldn’t be any consumers. So the logical thing is to go for the source of availability. Especially because that is where the money is being made i.e. incentive. So why criminalise the consumers and not the suppliers?”
Or another, concerned about the calamitous workings of the (non)prostituted:
“Another unwelcome consequence of this legislation, if it is introduced, is that punters will suddenly become sitting ducks for blackmail. Of course, they are potentially vulnerable now – greedy prostitute discovers where punter lives and that he is married, and threatens disclosure to the wife. In practice this is pretty unlikely. Why would a prostitute want to kill the goose that is laying golden eggs? I suppose high profile celebrities are marginally more vulnerable to blackmail now, if they use prostitutes. But if this Nordic model is introduced where to punt is to break the law, many a prostitute and/or her pimp will be unable to resist the temptation to threaten disclosure to the police unless money is handed over. The consequences of being turned over to the law could be horrendous. If found guilty, a substantial fine, no doubt or even prison. The marriage destroyed. Possible loss of job. Many a punter, faced with this situation, will pay up rather than face the consequences of exposure.”
Poor punter. Indeed men’s right to rent women is so important, that women’s political emancipation should be taken very seriously lest it laces the debate, as another opines,
“I’m all for equality, but this does go to show that if you give women too much power they come up with some crackpot ideas. ”
You see Selma? That punters don’t feel remotely as if they owe anything to prostitutes in terms of support for their rights or safety, shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone with half a cent of sense… who is not entrenched in absolute denial or high faluting hokum. They have paid for what they have wanted and they have gotten it! You have already given away your chips! You have nothing more to bargain with!
Indeed, as most are so bloated with misogyny and whore hatred, if they did deign themselves to organise they would be nothing but an impediment to the happy hooker cause, as Selma herself discovered. But if they are lacking in cunning and politically inclined (or simply cannot help themselves) they might slink about betwixt the legs of the damsels of the Twitterati, proclaiming their unerring belief in women’s volition whilst fervently denying having ever paid for sex. Even these hapless Geres cannot bring themselves to a place of honesty, so they flounder about.
So how do we explain all this? Some ‘Sex workers’ unrequited loyalty to punters? Low expectations?
Prostitutes, and most certainly those women who, for whatever reason, have decided to support a cause that in no way furthers themselves other than in their own minds (superficial empowerment, intemperate volition, presumed social status) like many of us, often suffer from cognitive biases, such as anchoring. Anchoring occurs when humans develop a specific focus on one aspect of information with regards to a subject, that is often developed initially and is subsequently difficult to shift. We often decide that punters are Not Bad People, but we do this on shallow grounds. Even not especially decent, empathic, considerate, moral people have the capacity to be polite, even convivial. I recall a Louis Theroux documentary when an active, virulent leader of an acutely racist subculture of America, had a ‘pleasant’ domestic attitude to his Latino neighbour; a man who unfortunately regarded this deeply corrupted, evil – not to mention spineless man – as a good friend.Heck, even Ted Bundy could be amenable when he needed to be.
Indeed, though prostitutes can be victims of violent attacks, it is in the most case, the average married, middle aged, occupationally successful man’s interest to at least be passingly courteous to prostitutes, because they want to get what they want without too much bluster and fuss. Or risk. Even a wife beater or a bank robber will be occasionally soothing to their victims if they think it serves their purpose. And unlike these, punters already have prostitutes by the scrap of the neck; unless they have an overt desire for performative sadism, managing a smile and having passing conversations about the weather, or some such, is no great shakes.
And as is consistently demonstrated by punters forums, the guys are able to smile, and say hello and use base level manners when with prostitutes, but often revert to calling us fat, ugly, stupid whores who, being intellectually, morally and temperamentally faulty, are their rightful resource, as soon as they are amongst themselves.
Yes, just as the wife who clings to the memory of her husband back when he bought her gifts and sung her praises – before he began carpentering the shape of his fist in to her face – prostitutes often chose to see the vague friendliness over the unwanted pulling of the hair, the thwacks to the buttocks and the nasty reviews they receive when they are not ‘up to scratch’. Indeed, over the missing voices of punters, as they clamour for social respectability, or the very occasional outings from men who make it clear that their rights to fuck are what they really care about. Not their safety or the soundness of their security.
They go to bat for them because they have the capacity to be cordial. Are these the terms? Perhaps it is also the effect of mere exposure; they know these people, so, like loyalty to a cruel and selfish family member or a corrupt nation, they see them as their duty to defend. It is prostitute to punter Patriotism.
If someone attacks our nation, we are similarly attacked, even if our nation does not care for us at all.
* The ECP’s are, we are told a prostitute collective, but its policy is to not declare the backgrounds or occupations of its members, which ostensibly, is reasoned in order to protect those women in prostitution who do not want to be ‘out’. Their primary political campaign is for the decriminalisation of prostitution profiteering. I’ll just leave the two and two out there for whoever wants to make four.
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